Erin B. Kelly and I hit it off right away because we both liked writing and smoking and boys. She had a sharp tongue. I was drawn to her because at that point I conflated things that were hard to hear with some form of truth and also she made me laugh harder than anybody I knew. The way that she was mean delighted me, until it was directed at me, at which point I cried much more hysterically than Erin had ever made me laugh.
Two and a half years into our friendship, shortly before it ended, I tattooed her full name on my head in giant script because I thought it was funny. And maybe also because some shrunken part of me thought it might make her happy. She was so moved that she cried. Then she asked me what I was going to do one day when I was a bald old lady?
"I’ll be the cool one in the baseball cap," I told her.
At first, the persistence of the tattoo despite Erin’s newfound absence was very painful. Then my hair grew back, which made it easier to forget the ink. Then I went through a painful period unrelated to my losing Erin where I was so stressed that my stomach rumbled constantly, I was always running to the bathroom, and my hair started falling out. That passed, too. But now I know there’s an actual risk that my formerly thick mane might fall all over the ground, and I’ve started to think about the cursive on my head more metaphorically.
Now, to me at least, the name above my left ear is a poignant reminder that for a while I thought I knew everything, lived ironically instead of earnestly and so lacked any sense of permanence—and moreover had so much love to give and nowhere to put it because I gravitated toward people who seemed interesting simply by virtue of being negative and hard to know. Erin B. Kelly in cursive is proof that many things change, including those things about myself that I just mentioned.